Davao City – A community-based school assisted by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in Talaingod, Davao del Norte has stopped its operations a day after celebrating their founding anniversary last October 1 due to intensified militarization.
In a press conference Tuesday, Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Incorporated (STTICLCI) said that by the month of July this year, there was an intensified military operation in the area up to this month.
“From September 27 to October 1 we had a celebration for the founding anniversary of our school, and for the recognition given to us by the Department of Education but after that, we suspended our classes,” said Ronie Garcia, head of the school’s Basic Education Program.
Garcia said that the students were not able to get back to the communities because of the presence of the 68th Infantry Battalion and the local paramilitary group, Alamara.
“The military and the Alamara are on the roads where our students and teachers pass by going to our main campus in Dulyan, Talaingod,” Garcia said.
The teacher recounted that on October 4, some members of the 68th IB and Alamara “ransacked” the staff-house where their teachers are staying and used it and a classroom for one night in a Salugpongan school in Sitio Laslasakan, Barangay Palma Gil.
“What was more, they tampered with the teachers’ tools of teaching,” Garcia said adding that some of the teachers’ stuff went missing.
The students and teachers of the STTICLCI high school situated in Sitio Nasilaban of another Barangay Palma Gil in the same municipality “were fired at successively for six consecutive days,early dawn, morning and afternoon by the elements of Alpha Company of the 68th IB.
The school official also recounted the indiscriminate firing done by some alleged “drunken soldiers” in Sitio Nasilaban community.
“The students and teachers who were inside the school and the dormitory were extremely terrified as the said group did this just across their high school from the grounds of a public elementary school, [only] 50 meters away,” he said.
The military later denied these allegations.
Read related story: Military denies indiscriminate firing of drunken soldiers in Talaingod
The group also reported that from October 15 until October 17 they have observed that the military is on a “daily firing spree.”
“Our school is directly across their camp. After the extreme firing that lasted for 30 minutes, the teachers and students decided to resume classes amidst their fears, then at 11 am while holding classes we were all startled again with another series of shots just beneath our school just more than 40 meters away. We stopped the classes for the day,” Garcia said.
But, Civil Military Operations Officer (CMO) of the 68th IB 2nd Lt. Jonathan Lubrido denied these reports.
“It was not because of us that their classes were suspended, it is because there are NPAs (New People’s Army) in the area,” Lubrido said in a telephone interview with Davao Today.
Lubrido also belied the claims of Garcia that their staff house and classroom in Sitio Laslasakan were ransacked and used by the soldiers.
“They are just telling lies, our soldiers did not sleep there,” he said.
But the school official said that since their founding in 2007, the school “had undergone several harassment” from the military “by encamping and settling in schools, charging that the teachers are NPAs, interrogating and conducting psychological warfare tactics to the learners, teachers, administrator and the residents of the community, and directly accusing that the schools are owned by communists.”
Garcia also said that they are affected with the “illegal arrest” of their school agriculturist, Dominiciano Muya.
Muya was arrested last October 16 and presented to the media as a high-ranking NPA leader.
Read related story: Groups demand AFP, PNP to drop “trumped up charges” vs agriculturist
“We have known him for so long, as a staff of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines that has been helping our school and as our schools’ agriculturist,” Garcia said.
“We believe that what the military is doing – the indiscriminate firing, ransacking of our schools, and the arrest of our agriculturist, are forms of harassment against us,” he said.
Garcia said that the AFP wanted their school to stop its operation.
“We believe that these are violations of the national and international laws governing the protection of schools and public places. Our schools are zones of peace. To attack our school is to attack the indigenous people who want to access free education and be empowered,” he said. (davaotoday.com)